There are no major surprises in the 6th edition of Solar Means Business, Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) annual report on corporate adoption at the top U.S. companies. The top three companies for cumulative on-site solar installations remained the same, with Target leading Walmart and real estate company Prologis.
However, within these three the differences are stark. Target added 43 MW of solar to its facilities last year, and has now installed solar on 436 of its roughly 1,800 buildings, with a combined capacity of 203.5 MW. Meanwhile, progress at Walmart was barely noticeable, while Prologis added a respectable 12 MW, to bring it to 120 MW.
But the metric of capacity added does not tell the whole story. Swedish retailer IKEA has fewer U.S. facilities to put solar on than either Microsoft or Target, but by the end of 2017 had installed PV systems on 90% of them. None of the other 4,000 companies tracked by Solar Means Business have even reached 40%, although GGP, Johnson & Johnson and General Motors have put solar at more than 30% of their facilities.
Some companies are moving more quickly than others. Real estate investment trust GGP is new to the top rankings; however in 2017 the company installed more than 19 MW of solar, and now has solar on nearly 40% of the properties it owns – the second-highest portion after IKEA.
It is important to note that Solar Means Business tracks only on-site solar, and the large majority of this is rooftop installations. It does not track the power purchase agreements with off-site solar and wind projects that have been extremely popular with technology giants including Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft, which recently signed power supply contracts for 315 MW of solar in Virginia to power its data centers.
Some of these firms are also installing solar at their facilities, and in 2017 Apple and Facebook added the 4th and 5th largest volume of solar of the 4,000 companies tracked by Solar Means Business.
Overall, while these 4,000 large and prominent companies are important social indicators, they are becoming a smaller portion of the overall commercial and industrial (C&I) solar landscape. In 2017 these companies collectively installed over 300 MW of solar, however the total “nonresidential” market in the United States, including community solar and solar at schools, reached more than 2 GW for the first time.
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I don’t understand how all these businesses – Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc – don’t have solar on top of their big warehouse stores. But, I was in Lowe’s the other day buying LED lights and from what I could tell they are still using T-8 fluorescent tubes as their main light. So, they may sell them, but they don’t use them.
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